Tag Archives: knowledge

The “Natural Flavors” Obfuscation

Did you know that MSG and aspartame can be labeled as “natural flavors”? Did you know that they are also the leading causes of central nervous system damage in the United States? They are both neurological toxins called excitotoxins, which essentially cause an extreme level of activity in certain brain cells, causing the cells to become exhausted and then die. The hypothalamus and the temporal lobes are specifically targeted. They control behavior, sleep cycle, emotion, immunity, and onset of puberty, among other things. They are essentially drugs, and damage your brain as such. Really look at the image to the right. This is what happens to brain cells within 2 hours of consumption of MSG.

brain-954821_640The reason they’re in a massive percentage of our food supply is because our food production system, very simply put, makes food that tastes of cardboard without a lot of help from additives like MSG and aspartame. They also ‘excite’ your taste buds along with your brain cells, and are addictive. The more of them you eat, the more you crave them. That’s another reason why they’re in so much processed food. The companies making these products want you to want them. Despite what it sounds like, this isn’t some sort of conspiracy theory. This is run-away laissez-faire capitalism gone mad (with the dubious exception of subsidization, of course).

mmm…gelatin

“Natural flavors” create two more problems for people who want to be more healthy and/or take a sociopolitical stand by taking control of their diet. One is that many of these “natural flavors” are manufactured using a process that begins with soy protein, sugar, glucose, starch, or a fatty acid. These are often derived from genetically modified crops, such as soy, corn, rapeseed, potatoes and sugar beets. The other problem is for vegetarians and vegans – there are many additives that are allowed in supposedly vegetarian and vegan food, which are derived from animals and insects. I like to take garlic supplements, but I recently discovered that the ones I’ve been taking use pig-derived gelatin. So, I’m back to raw organic garlic until I can find an alternative. It’s a veritable minefield out there. But knowledge is power, and as we gain knowledge, we can make changes one at a time.

All those years, I thought spices looked like this. Silly me!

All those years, I thought spices looked like this. Silly me!

The most important thing for you to know is how to recognize these dangerous ingredients, so that you can avoid buying products that contain them. MSG goes by many names. This is an incomplete list:

Glutamic acid, glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, calcium glutamate, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, gelatin, anything “hydrolyzed,” soy protein, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, textured protein, whey protein, whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient, autolyzed yeast, caramelized yeast, vegetable extract, plant protein extract, oat flour, malt extract, malt flavoring, bouillon, broth, stock, natural flavoring, natural beef or chicken flavoring, seasoning, spices, carrageenan, enzymes.

For a long time I thought that the term “spices” in ingredients lists was to protect trade secrets, so the company doesn’t have to give away it’s special mixture of dried/dehydrated chives, oregano and parsley. As it turns out, it’s so they don’t have to write MSG on the label, since it’s gotten so much well-deserved bad press.

Aspartame may be a little easier to recognize, as it has fewer names. They include Equal, NutraSweet, NatraTaste, Canderel, Spoonful, and Equal-Measure. Similar artificial sweeteners that should also be avoided are acesulfame K, cyclamate, isomalt, saccharin, sucralose (brand name Splenda), alitame, neohesperidine, salt of aspartame-acesulfame, maltitol, lactitol, sorbitol, mannitol and glycerol.

greens-266560_640Here’s the thing. It’s really a lot easier to think about this in a positive way. In other words, don’t think about what to avoid. Think about what to include. For example, organic honey, actual real maple syrup, and organic raw sugar are fine in moderate quantities. Cook at home using fresh ingredients, and add flavor to your food with real herbs and spices. It’s that simple.

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Sustainable Education

Diminishing returns

I’m not just talking about a curriculum that includes educating students about sustainability, though that’s also important. I’m talking about the system of educational diminishing returns that we’re seeing, especially in the United States. I’ve got a family full of teachers, so I’ve been exposed to the particular challenges they face for my whole life, and I’ve seen first-hand the disgusting lack of support for all teachers, but more specifically for teachers that work with the students that need the most support – children with behavioral disorders, learning styles that are at odds with the current system, language impairments, math-based learning disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disorders. The recent U.S. Education Sequester has made things worse, disproportionately so for the teachers and kids in special & alternative education programs. Let’s face it – even with the current economic difficulties, this is an incredibly wealthy country. We’re just not using the power of our wealth to back the right horse. And if we don’t start changing things when we can, I think it will eventually lead to a situation where we don’t have the wealth or the skill-set that makes change like this potentially so easy to implement.

Education refugees

knowledge-1052011_640Because of the diminishing returns that are being seen by all students, more of us are looking outside our borders to pursue higher education. “The number of U.S. students at Canadian colleges rose 50 percent in a decade.” And that’s just Canada, one of our closest neighbors. Lots of us are going to other countries where we can get an excellent education for half the cost, or less. I’m an education refugee myself, and I’m in the Netherlands. I took my brains and my work ethic and moved them overseas. Not because I don’t love my country, but because it doesn’t love me. It loves big agra and big pharma and a big military. It certainly wasn’t the easier choice in the short-term, but it’s the more sustainable choice for me, for many reasons, one being that I no longer need a car; I go everywhere by bicycle, train or bus, greatly reducing my personal carbon footprint. Another thing that makes it a more sustainable choice is that I don’t have the crippling student loans I would have had otherwise. I still needed student loans, and they’re still through the US federal government, who’s robbing me blind on interest, but it’s tens of thousands less than it could have been.

learn-793095_640There’s another way to read ‘education refugees.’ Current and potential teachers are making other choices for careers. When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher because of the inherent ability of the profession to inspire future generations, and the massive contributions teachers make to the general good of society. But that ability is being eroded by increasingly bad policies, like the rise in emphasis on standardized testing which forces them to ‘teach to the test’ instead of accenting critical thinking, research, and interactive learning, all of which engage students. Also eroding that ability is decreasing federal funding. Schools are closing, kids are being shuffled around, teachers are losing their jobs, and the ones remaining have bigger class sizes, more work, and mountains of stress. This is a downward spiral – by nature not sustainable.

Back to being green

Of course, this all has serious ramifications for the overall sustainability movement as well. Everything’s related. If we aren’t inspiring and educating people to be good critical thinkers and inventors, we’ll have a hard time coming up with new technologies that will help move us away from dependence on fossil fuels. Research and development are vital to this process. For example, biotecture wouldn’t be feasible without a really good understanding of how different materials interact with heat, and how to use that knowledge to increase the self-sufficiency of buildings. We’re actually holding back our own scientific development, and increasing the overall danger to the entire world, and that’s just unforgivable.

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